The Obama administration acknowledged on Wednesday that the United States had killed four American citizens in drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder disclosed the deaths in a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, The New York Times reports.
The Times obtained a copy of the letter.
The acknowledgment comes a day before President Barack Obama is to deliver a major speech on national security, the Times reports.
Holder said that the administration had deliberately killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric who was killed in a drone strike in September 2011 in Yemen.
The U.S. responsibility for Awlaki’s death has been widely reported, but the administration had refused to confirm or deny it, the Times reports.
The United States also had killed three other Americans, Holder said in the letter.
They are Samir Khan, who was killed in the same strike; Awlaki’s son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who was also killed in Yemen; and Jude Mohammed, who was killed in a strike in Pakistan.
“These individuals were not specifically targeted by the United States,” Holder wrote in the letter.
While rumors of Mohammed’s death had appeared in local news reports in Raleigh, N.C., where he lived, his death had not been confirmed by the U.S. government until Wednesday, the Times reports.
Former acquaintances of Mohammed in North Carolina told the Times that he appeared to have been killed in a November 2011 drone strike in South Waziristan, in Pakistan’s tribal area.
Mohammed’s wife, whom he had met and married in Pakistan, subsequently called his mother in North Carolina to tell her of his death, the friends told the Times.
Holder, in a speech at Northwestern University Law School last year, said that, legally, American citizens who are deemed to be operational terrorists, who pose an “imminent threat of violent attack” and whose capture is infeasible may be targeted.
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